Century Sunday: The Inland Route

We changed it up a bit yesterday for our Sunday Century ride, heading inland towards LaBelle instead of paralleling the coast. Changes of venue are always welcomed to keep things fresh and interesting, and yesterday’s ride delivered on both counts.

Into the fog we go.

The route was familiar to many of us as it contained elements of the “Everyone Rides Century” as well as established Saturday morning Buckingham Park ride routes. We were to head East on Daniels, then Northward through Gateway to Buckingham, and then East again towards LaBelle following the Caloosahatchee River watershed. As before, we were to have two groups (18-21 MPH and 22-24 MPH) which would ride together until the first stop, and then split off to ride at their respective speeds. Total distance, approximately 107 miles.

We met up early morning at Bell Tower under a thick layer of fog. Even with the fog, turnout was surprisingly strong…these Sunday centuries are turning out to be quite popular. The forecast called for light winds with our customary high heat and humidity, not ideal for a long endurance ride, but such is summer in Florida.

How many people does it take to change a flat?

We started off at an easy pace down Daniels Boulevard giving us a chance to get used to the heavy fog. Visibility at long distance was reduced, but overall, it really wasn’t that bad. The same can’t be said for the “soupiness” of the fog, as we were all dripping wet just a few miles in. Our kits really do not wick any sweat away when the surface humidity is at 100%. Our eyewear was pretty much useless too as a thick layer of condensation quickly formed on the inner surface. I ended up removing them for the first 15 or so miles just to be able to see.

Our pace picked up substantially as we rode through Gateway, causing the group to split up prematurely. Wanting to ride a more relaxed pace, I made sure to stay with the right group this time…not that riding a fast century isn’t fun, but my mindset was in touring mode, not hammer mode.

Miles and miles of traffic free country roads

Our group consisted of eight riders, Jeff, Steve, Angela, Larry, Tom, Mel, Bill and myself. We made a few, “on the fly” route modifications to give us a more scenic route as well as avoid traffic. Having ridden on these roads just a couple of times during event rides, I was in follow the leader mode enjoying the charming country vistas as we cruised through the watershed at a very comfortable 20 MPH.

By now the sun had burned away all the fog and was quickly raising the temperature into the low 90’s. Hydration was going to be paramount on this ride as the heat index was hovering in the low 100’s, so we stopped at a convenience store in Alva for some cold drinks. While there, Angela came running out of the store all excited mentioning something about a guys pants. Before she could describe what she saw, the object of her excitement came out…it was a older gentleman wearing jeans held up with suspenders. I exaggerate a bit when I say “held up”, as these jeans here hanging so low that half his derriere was completely exposed!

Refueling at the infamous “Crack Stop”

The guys immediately said, “take a picture for the blog”, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it, that or I was just to traumatized to take the picture, but, from now on, this particular convenience store will be know as “The Crack Stop”. We enjoyed a couple more chuckles when the quicker group came rolling in. They seemed to be at a loss at how we had beat them to the stop…little did they know that we had altered our route a bit.

Refreshed and refueled, we formed up again and headed down State Road 80. A few miles down the road Bill got a rare front flat. With so many hands available, it was changed in pitstop-like style, and we were quickly back on our way to cross the river at the old Fort Denaud bridge. The bridge is one of the few remaining swing bridges in Florida, which pivots 90° at it’s central point to allow acces to boats on the Caloosahatchee, which is also unique being one of the few navigable inland waterways in Florida. Unfortunately the bridge was closed for repairs, leaving us to alter our route again.

Photo-op at the swing bridge.

We ended up crossing the river using the LaBelle bridge, then looped around State Road 29 to County Road 731 back down to the river. Another break was in order as we were going through the Gatorade quickly. Luckily the only cracks at this convenience store were in the pavement!

Back on our bikes we were now heading West down the watershed on State Road 78. With a slight breeze at our back and little traffic, this picturesque road is a pleasure to ride on. We continued down it past the broken swing bridge all the way back to Alva and yet another stop at the infamous “Crack Stop” convenience store. This time everyone avoided the Gatorade and reached for some ice cold cokes, the perfect pick-me-up after 66 miles.

Mel and Larry broke off from us at this point leaving just Steve, Jeff, Angela and myself to finish up the ride (Tom and Bill had also broken off earlier). We continued, winding our way through Lehigh Acres and eventually changed our westerly heading to due South towards Gateway. Now nearly 90 miles in, we were all feeling the effects of the heat. Jeff was battling some cramps, and I was tolerating the dreaded hot foot, yet even with these discomforts, we were all still enjoying the ride. Steve reinvigorated us all, by offering us a very welcomed stop at his house for some cold drinks and a little break from the sun. Being completely Gatoraded out, I opted for some cold water, Jeff too, while Angela and Steve chose some “barley sodas”.

Beer, the perfect recovery drink!

We reluctantly got back on our bikes after the break for the remaining 10 miles. It’s always hard to hop back onto the bike after a long-ish comfortable break, but at least we were refreshed. The remaining route was just a drop in the bucket after the 90 plus miles we had already ridden. We even caught a couple cooling drops of rain as our odometers ticked over the century mark while pulling into Bell Tower.

Tired, overheated and hungry, yet with big smiles on our faces, our Sunday century had come to an end. Bring on the next one!

Route: Inland Century
Ride Time: 5:39:10
Stopped Time: 2:19:00
Distance: 99.20 miles
Average: 17.55 mph
Fastest Speed: 24.43 mph
Ascent: 1051 feet
Descent: 1021 feet
Calories: 5096


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